Should Programmers Have Interview Portfolios?
For many tech jobseekers, a portfolio is an absolute necessity. Graphic designers, for example, can’t hope to win many jobs if they don’t show up to the interview with examples of the impressive work they’ve done. The idea is to showcase the work itself, demonstrate an eye towards presentation and organization, and show how the work is annotated.
Portfolios aren’t as common for programmers, who often go into interviews hoping the strength of their resumes and references combined with a certain conversational technical acumen will be enough to win them the job. These days, that just isn’t enough.
There are a few clear advantages to bringing a portfolio to your interview for that programming job:
1. Stand out. Chances are good that the programmers you’re competing with aren’t bringing portfolios of their work so this can be a great opportunity to create a memorable interview experience for the people doing the hiring. Taking initiative tends to be a trait employers appreciate in their employers.
2. Show off. Show off that code base! After all, code can be beautiful, especially in the eye of a discerning beholder. While the hiring manager may be most concerned with your work experience and/or technical skills, it stands to reason that there may be some tech-savvy people sitting around the interview table who would be interested in seeing a bit more. Give them a glimpse of what you’re capable of – show them a bit of code you’re particularly proud of or demonstrate an app you built. Walk them through it – it shows how you approach complex development decisions. Talk about the challenges you faced and how you overcame them, how you interacted and relied on other team members with complementary skills, and show off your ability to think outside the box.
3. Be yourself. By handing your potential new employer a portfolio of the projects you’ve been most excited about and/or most proud to have completed, you’re giving them an indication of the kinds of projects you’ll be enthusiastic about in the future. Your sample work is a reflection of who you are. This can help them get a better idea of how well you’ll fit at their company, which helps to ensure you don’t take a job you’re not a perfect fit for.
For programmers, a portfolio can be as simple as a file with printed versions of your code or screenshots of your apps, though we suggest bringing a tablet or laptop so hiring managers can get a closer look at your work.